A little over a week ago, the American Conservative Union hosted their yearly CPAC gathering (Conservative Political Action Conference) and of note was the speech given by conservative commentator and author Ryan Sorba. The content of Sorba’s speech isn’t what’s noteworthy. Suffice it to say that it was predictably homophobic and loathsome. What was noteworthy was the reaction he received from the CPAC audience. Sorba’s comments were booed! It appears Sorba was upset that ACU had invited a gay conservative group to CPAC (I know, I know, a gay conservative group is oxymoronic, but I have no control of such things). When Sorba bitterly complained about the gays attendance at the conference, not only did the gays boo him, so did many others in the CPAC audience. When Tea Party conservatives are booing homophobia, I guess we can claim another small victory for our side! In fact, I like to think we’ve already won. Some of the practical effects of that victory have yet to materialize, but it’s not a matter of if, only when. Keep hope alive!
Archive for February 2010
I came across an interesting article from ScieneDaily (May 13, 2009) regarding a research study first published in the medical journal NeuroImage that demonstrated that long term meditators show increased volume in certain regions of their brains, specifically “the hippocampus and areas within the orbito-frontal cortex, the thalamus and the inferior temporal gyrus — all regions known for regulating emotions.” As the article states “research has confirmed the beneficial aspects of meditation. In addition to having better focus and control over their emotions, many people who meditate regularly have reduced levels of stress and bolstered immune systems.” The lead research author Eileen Luders, a postdoctoral research fellow at the UCLA Laboratory of Neuro Imaging, is quoted as saying “these might be the neuronal underpinnings that give meditators’ the outstanding ability to regulate their emotions and allow for well-adjusted responses to whatever life throws their way.” Of course, the article offers the caveat that it cannot be known if these individuals already had these larger volume brain regions and that’s what drew them to meditation in the first place. At the same time, the article acknowledged the neuro-plasticity of the brain and how environmental factors can influence the very structures of the brain. Either way, more and more research is demonstrating how a regular meditation practice, applied with discipline, can improve so many aspects of life. So I’ll close with a simple question: what’s keeping you from practicing and enjoying these obvious benefits?
The February 8 issue of Newsweek has a fascinating cover story (http://www.newsweek.com/id/232781) about the recent meta analysis of antidepressant research that demonstrates that the entire class of medications work no better than a placebo in cases of mild to moderate depression, and only slightly better in cases of severe depression. The “problem” with the placebo effect is that it’s based on the expectation that something is going to work. The authors of both the original research and the Newsweek article discuss the dilemma of revealing these data because it potentially undermines the effectiveness of antidepressants. My opinion is that, just like Toto, we should always pull back the curtain to reveal the man behind the Wizard. Isn’t it more important that we come to a deeper understanding of human consciousness and the miraculous workings of our minds than to rely on a limited, materialist perspective that endorses the notion that we’re nothing more than grey matter and neurotransmitters that rest in our skulls? I think so.
I have always rejected that the human experience can be reduced to the function of our brains. Brains are important of course, but that’s not the whole of it. If we reduce our experience to matter, it doesn’t leave a lot of room for soul. And I for one want to champion the entirety of the human experience—matter and soul—holistically generating the miracle called life.
I had the privilege of attending a seven day meditation retreat during the last week of January and it gave me the opportunity to reflect on how meditation and psychotherapy, while vastly different, both support and compliment each other. Both practices reflect on ones mind, and each come at it in slightly different ways. In psychotherapy, the reflection rests more within the context of the relationship between the client and the therapist while in meditation, the reflection is largely internal and solitary. Nevertheless, both practices strive to achieve insights into the workings of ones own mind towards the goal of alleviating suffering. And it’s really important to understand those workings, because without that understanding, things can get a bit messy. Imagine if you will that you’re given the instruction to drive a car for the very first time without ever having sat in a car before. You wouldn’t know the difference between the brake pad and the accelerator, the gear stick, the steering wheel. If you attempted to operate the vehicle under those conditions you would very likely damage the car and possibly hurt yourself. Living ones life without some fundamental understanding of ones own mind is like that. So whether its meditation or psychotherapy or some other form of self reflection, just do something to understand yourself and you just might find that you achieve greater contentment in this very moment!